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Troy VI: A Trading Center and Commercial City?

Troy VI: A Trading Center and Commercial City?

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Fascination with Homer’s Iliad has led scholars, even before Schliemann, to postulate that Ilios/Troia was not only a real place but also that Homer gave an essentially realistic account of the topographical features and the historical importance of Priam’s splendid city. The present excavator of the prehistoric site on the hill of Hisarlik not only continues this strand of scholarly tradition but also raises the economic significance of Troy to new heights. From its location close to the Dardanelles, he deduces a strategic importance as a trading center, commercial city and even a commercial metropolis, which functioned as a hub for trade among the Black Sea, the Aegean, Anatolia and the Eastern Mediterranean. This article presents evidence to show that these ideas are unfounded by defining the structures of Late Bronze Age trade and the factors conditioning the rise of commercial cities and by checking the archaeological evidence as it results from the excavations at Troy and at Bexik Bay, its alleged harbor. The present state of research indicates that Late Bronze Age trade was largely palace- and elite-directed, comprising gift exchange and organized trade providing important raw materials and precious objects. The volume of this trade was obviously very limited compared with later epochs of antiquity, but considerably higher in the Eastern Mediterranean than in the Aegean. Thus, opportunities for the rise of commercial cities were limited, essentially, to the Levant. Troy was situated off the great east–west routes of seatrade. In addition, there is evidence neither for overland trade routes from the Hittite empire to the west coast of Asia Minor nor for sea-trade through Dardanelles and Bosporus into the Black Sea during the Late Bronze Age. The excavation results at Troy VI and Bexik Bay show a remarkable poverty of imports in general and of precious objects in particular and no connections at all with the Black Sea region. Troy’s role in trade was peripheral and restricted to the Aegean. Furthermore, evidence for writing and even for sealing as well as for any commercial architecture is missing on the hill of Hisarlik. Troy VI was not a commercial city and cannot even be proven to have been a city at all, since the alleged evidence for a densely built-up lower city, encircled by a city wall and defensive ditch, does not bear close scrutiny.

Troy VI: A Trading Center and Commercial City?

By Frank Kolb

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 108, No. 4 (October 2004), pp. 577–613

DOI: 10.3764/aja.108.4.577

© 2004 Archaeological Institute of America

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